If Gore Verbinski’s recent A Cure for Wellness was one of the strangest films to be released by a major movie studio in some years, then Jordan Peele’s Get Out, another horror film, is one of the most inspired and gutsiest of that genre to come along in some time.
Both genuinely creepy and prescient, the picture features its share of unsettling moments, several of which are of the type you’d typically expect to find in a low budget horror movie and several more are due to the director’s deft handling of issues pertaining to race in America.
As the film opens, a young black man walks alone on a suburban street at night on the phone, telling whoever he is talking to that he doesn’t think it’s such a good idea that he is roaming the streets of this particular neighborhood. Sure enough, a car pulls up behind him and starts following him, instantly bringing to mind George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.
Elsewhere, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to spend a weekend with his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), who is going to introduce him to her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), who live in suburbia somewhere within driving distance from New York City. Chris is not pleased when Rose tells him that she had not mentioned that her boyfriend is black. She doesn’t see what the big deal is, but Chris’s weekend gets off to an uncomfortable start that, needless to say, only gets worse.
On the drive to Rose’s parent’s home, the couple hits a deer crossing the road and when a police officer arrives on the scene, he asks to see Chris’s license, despite the fact that Rose was driving. She becomes incensed and curses at the cop, but Chris is all too aware of scenes like these and tries to dispel the tension.
Upon arriving at the home of Missy (Keener) and Dean (Whitford) Armitage, a psychotherapist and surgeon, respectively, Chris finds that something is off. And it goes way beyond the obvious discomfort that Rose’s parents are trying to hide via Dean’s eye-roll inducing attempts to make Chris feel comfortable by discussing President Barack Obama, Jesse Owens and using words – thang, for example – that he clearly doesn’t use in other company.
But the most unsettling aspect of Chris’s arrival is the way in which the Armitage’s black help – Georgina (Betty Gabriel), a maid with a zoned out look in her eye, and Walter (Marcus Henderson), a handyman whose cheery behavior holds a certain menace in reserve – behaves. Chris tries to appeal to them when things begin to take a turn for the strange, but Georgina and Walter appear all too happy to cater to the Armitages’ every whim.
Early in the film, Missy puts Chris in a trance in an attempt to get him to quit smoking and he falls deep into a place where can see those looking down on him, but feels trapped and floating in space. It’s a creepy sequence that we later learn isn’t quite so innocent – at least, Missy’s purpose in it – as it first appears.
Some levity amid all this tension is in the form of Rod (LilRel Howery), a TSA worker and pal of Chris’s who begins sleuthing on his friend’s behalf after he doesn’t return home on time and a call to Rose makes him even further suspicious. And in the film’s finale, Get Out goes from eerie to gory as Chris attempts to free himself from his captors.
Although I won’t give away the reason why Chris has been lured to the Armitages’ house, suffice it to say that his comment that he feels uncomfortable around large groups of white people is, certainly in the context of this picture, justified. Peele, whose previous comedic work is with Keegan-Michael Key, has delivered a horror movie that is frightening, funny and thematically relevant, especially considering our current political climate. It’s a movie with brains that very effectively utilizes horror tropes and satire to comment on the very unstable state of race relations in our country today.